One year ago today, Dutch and I were on a 35 hour flight home from our trip to Thailand & Laos. It was my birthday and because of the time difference I had 36 hours of guilt-free decadent birthday eating (or at least as decadent as you can find in an airport). I managed 3 pieces of birthday cake on 3 different continents.
Today on my birthday, a year later, I am finally going to share a few of my pictures from that trip. Because that’s what you do on your birthday, something decadent. Most of you will just scan through the pictures, but in case there is anyone reading with wanderlust, I’ll share a few stories as well.
We did not have time to plan any part of this trip and our favorite memories are those days that never would have happened if we had. Our second day in Thailand, we met a man named Banut who offered to take us in his boat around the karsts (limestone cliffs jutting out of the sea). After an hour at sea, we pulled up to a small Muslim fishing village on a tiny island rarely visited by tourists (at least we assumed given the stares and confusion). Banut motioned for us to get on a small motorbike with him (which is a whole other story) and we ate freshly caught fish at a table outside a woman’s home. When he was finished, Banut licked his fingers, stood up, and pointed to another motorcycle, pantomimed driving and swimming, then left.
This is one of those moments while traveling that you have to choose…do I try to understand what is happening in this situation or do we just get on that motorbike and explore! Ignoring the obvious questions – who’s motorbike is this? Is there enough gas is in it? How are we going to find Banut again – we sped off! We circled the island a few times, waved at the locals, and found an empty stretch of beach. As if it was planned all along. Banut found us swimming a few hours later, we returned to his boat and left the motorcycle sitting miles from where we borrowed it!
We spent the entire, marvelous day with Banut. He climbed trees to pick tamarind for us to chew on, we swam with jellyfish on a deserted island, and he used his machete to chop off the tops of coconuts for us to drink.
Trekking in Mae Hong Son in Thailand near the Myanmar border was really unique. We hired a local guy named “Jack” to take us into the mountains, which were steep, covered in jungle, and apparently filled with poisonous snakes. The first night we slept on the bamboo floor of a family’s hut. Pigs, water buffalo, and chickens wandered between the houses, waiting for scraps and in the early morning as the sun rose, we heard Jack killing the chickens we had carried in that were to be our dinner that night. It was Valentine’s Day. When we started hiking, we realized Jack had asked a man from the village to accompany us as a snake killer. When asked why, he elaborated in broken English, describing his various encounters with pythons, cobras, etc over the past few weeks ending with “no problem, no problem” and a big smile.
We probably hiked 8 hours through the hot humid jungle staring at those raw chickens in the woven basket on Jack’s back. Our snake killer killed a green viper right before we stepped on it then parted ways to set up our camp and cook that sorry chicken. After swimming in the most beautiful waterfall we’ve ever seen and hiking another few hours, we arrived at camp. Snake killer had fashioned a spoon, cup, teapot, and soup pot out of bamboo cut along the path. The presentation of the food…rice spooned right out of the bamboo (the cooking vessel!) onto the banana leaf that was our communal plate…it was truly amazing. So amazing, I had hopes that the sun-soaked chicken would not give us food poisoning. No such luck. But the memory of the experience was still worth it.
Bryan Adam’s 1980’s hit “Right here Waiting For You” is just as popular in Thailand as we found it to be in Nepal a few years ago. It’s on more ringtones than the marimba.
Thai cooking class! We needed the intel, some restaurant’s menu translations read like a Dr. Seuss book:
Fish Shift Thicket Three Taste
Cheapness Tasty Delicious See Forest
There Crisp Mix Add Friend!
There’s a misconception in this country that traveling is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be if you go to non-touristy areas. For this trip, we used credit card miles to fly, stayed at simple beach huts and city guest houses from $6 – $25/night, and ate incredible food for a couple dollars per meal. It was almost cheaper than staying at home! We splurged on adventures like renting motorbikes, rock climbing, hiring a trekking guide, and massages…kidding, even those are dirt-cheap. At the night market, we’d sit in a green plastic chair lining the alley and get an hour foot massage for $4!
I rock climbed on Railay Beach while Dutch did some deep sea fishing.
Traveling is our way of slowing down, experiencing new things, and re-connecting. Re-connecting with each other (oh hello husband, you’ve been hiding behind my business partner) and also re-connecting with our thoughts and our creativity. When we travel we are blissfully unplugged with only an obligation to check email once a week. Just a backpack with a few clothes, a book, and the smallest, simplest point-and-shoot we own.
It has been exactly one year since we returned from Thailand and Laos. Tomorrow, we leave for Morocco. Can’t wait for the next adventure!